Military-to-college transition: Challenges and opportunities

12/27/2016

Going from the military to college poses some challenges, but groups are working to smooth the process.

When returning from active duty, many veterans go directly to higher education. With legislation such as the GI Bills in place, it's clear that this is an encouraged path. However, to follow this route, vets need to navigate the transition from military life to academic classes, with all the behind-the-scenes work that entails. It's important to ensure individuals are aware of the resources available to them and overcome the challenges associated with finding an ideal college program.

Solving the course credit conundrum
Time Magazine recently spotlighted an issue that has vexed some veterans moving from military roles into higher education: It can be difficult to receive college credit for skills learned while serving. The source noted that there are reasons for this lack of connection. For instance, there is no standardized framework creating equivalencies between military training and classroom learning. Furthermore, there are some key differences between what military personnel are trained on and what they might learn at a college.

Faced with the above disconnect, organizations have attempted to craft a happy medium that will placate both vets and schools. Failure to do so leads to absurd situations. Time recounted the case of Navy vet Steve Mayou, who initially qualified for no physics credit, despite the fact that he had worked directly with nuclear reactors on submarines. With veterans slowed and stymied in their educational careers by an inability to receive credit for training, groups such as the Council for Adult and Experimental Learning have pointed out the need for new systems.

Fortunately for college-ready vets, states are becoming aware of the need for recognition and taking direct action to create a streamlined approach. Time reported that 13 states are members of the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit. This is a working group designed to ensure there are better ways for vets to receive college credit in the near future. The source explained that every participant in the system has an incentive to make it work correctly: Veterans want a good education, colleges want a fresh supply of enrollees and states want the qualified new workforce members who will emerge with degrees.

College is very different from military life - the adjustment can be tough.College is very different from military life - the adjustment can be tough.

Changing circumstances
The differences between serving in the military and attending college classes can be stark, and serve as another barrier between vets and a complete education. Thankfully, The Durango Herald noted that there are groups attempting to close this gap, too. Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) programs try to take the shock out of going from active deployment overseas to the less structured world of school.

The source noted that many different factors can harm veterans' college performance if left unaddressed. For instance, individuals who have experienced combat and the stresses that come along with it have a very different background from their civilian classmates. They can find it hard to relate and form connections at first. Mentors can also help military students cope with the fact that they have just come from an environment where they were surrounded by fellow service members who became as close as family. No matter the stresses facing vets, PAVE mentors help find solutions and get students on the path to success.

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